West firm first in UK to trial £5,000 ro­botic vest

Western Daily Press (Saturday) - - News - HANNAH BAKER [email protected]­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

IN the tra­di­tion­ally ‘ma­cho’ world of build­ing, few would risk the po­ten­tial leg-pulling of ask­ing for as­sis­tance with heavy loads.

But now help is at hand in the form of a £5,000 ro­botic vest that helps take the strain from builders’ shoul­ders.

A Bris­tol con­struc­tion com­pany has be­come the first in Bri­tain to use it.

Will­mott Dixon, which is build­ing the new apart­ments at Finzels Reach, has bought the £5,000 Ek­soVest to help work­ers who spend long hours do­ing jobs over­head such as fit­ting light­ing or plas­ter­ing ceil­ings.

The ro­botic vest is op­ti­mised to sup­port the weight of the worker’s arms so that any over­head work puts less of a strain on the worker’s shoul­ders and arms. The vest pro­vides 5-15lbs of lift as­sis­tance per arm when ac­ti­vated.

The idea, ex­plains Will­mott Dixon de­sign man­ager Chris Townsend, is that work­ers car­ry­ing out repet­i­tive tasks feel “less fa­tigued” at the end of the day.

He said: “As an in­dus­try it’s im­por­tant for us to in­tro­duce new tech­nol­ogy to im­prove pro­cesses as the con­struc­tion sec­tor is not very good at do­ing that. Ek­soVests are pre­dicted to be one of the key tech­nolo­gies to im­prove con­struc­tion in the next 10 years.

“Rightly or wrongly this is a very ma­cho-ori­ented in­dus­try and we need to change the mind­set and show work­ers that it’s not be­cause they can’t do it, we know they can, but that it will help them do a job for longer.”

Con­struc­tion worker Mark on the Finzels Reach site has been us­ing the vest, and ad­mits he was scep­ti­cal at first but has found it ac­tu­ally makes a “real dif­fer­ence”.

Mark said: “It re­ally comes into its own when we are do­ing a lot of high­level work such as pulling ca­bles.

“When you are work­ing above your head for a long time it does hurt your shoul­ders and it is just some­thing you get used to after do­ing for years. I was a lit­tle scep­ti­cal to be­gin with but ac­tu­ally it is sim­ple to wear, it’s not heavy and it takes all the strain out.”

The Ek­soVest was de­vel­oped in Cal­i­for­nia by tech com­pany Ekso Bion­ics, which first sold its prod­uct into the med­i­cal and mil­i­tary sec­tors.

The firm branched out into con­struc­tion in 2018, go­ing into part­ner­ship with car maker Ford in the US.

Ford have now taken the vest into man­u­fac­tur­ing plants across the States, with em­ploy­ees work­ing un­der­neath cars us­ing the vest to as­sist them.

Will­mott Dixon bought the vest in Oc­to­ber 2018 – and it is one of only two in the whole of the UK (the other is a demo vest).

Chris says Will­mott Dixon would now like to en­cour­age its sup­ply chain to start in­vest­ing in the vests for its own work­ers.

He added: “It’s about try­ing to change the mind­set of the in­dus­try and demon­strate the ben­e­fits of this tech to our sub­con­trac­tors.

“The in­dus­try has to make some se­ri­ous changes to mod­ernise oth­er­wise it’s go­ing to go back­wards, and tech and ro­bot­ics will form a part of that.

“There is al­ways a fear that ro­bots are tak­ing over, but this is hu­man driven. It’s about en­hanc­ing jobs that ex­ist, not re­plac­ing them. Hope­fully, in time, we will start to change the way peo­ple per­ceive the in­dus­try and start see­ing more peo­ple tak­ing up ca­reers in con­struc­tion.”

Richard Wil­liams

A Will­mott Dixon site worker demon­strates the Ek­soVest in ac­tion

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.